Jordan Rodriguez holding two jumbo perch caught at Lake Cascade.

One of the strangest winters in recent memory continues, as the freezing temperatures of early January now seem like the distant past. February has been unseasonably mild, and the springlike weather has brought runoff and deteriorating ice conditions along with some earlier-than-usual open water opportunities. As you plan your upcoming trips, here are some ideas to get you started:

Lake Cascade (Perch, Trout)

Cascade is the best remaining option for the ice fishing crowd. The entire lake is frozen and (mostly) in decent shape, especially given the weird weather. The edges are bad in places, particularly at the popular Van Wyck access in town. I would avoid Van Wyck—conditions are better at Boulder Creek, Poison Creek and Blue Heron (although anglers should always exercise caution, especially when using snowmobiles). The perch bite has been good, with most anglers targeting the river channel out toward the middle of the lake. On a recent trip, my group of four landed more than 50 perch, including a handful of jumbos over 14 inches, plenty of good-sized keepers, and a number of smaller fish. Rippin Rap-style lures tipped with perch meat and spoons patterns tipped with worms or red spikes were the ticket. We fished about 30 feet of water. We had about 10 inches of clear ice, with a couple inches of packed slush on top. Have fun and be careful out there!

Ice Fishing Update

Apart from Cascade, ice fishing options are limited as the season winds down. Here’s a look at some of our popular hardwater fisheries:

  • Horsethief Reservoir: Horsethief is still frozen and fishing well for pan-sized rainbow trout. Snow/slush levels on top of the ice vary, but can be a pain on warm days. Small jigs tipped with mealworms or waxworms are usually the ticket. Pink is my go-to color for Horsethief.
  • Magic Reservoir: The main body of the lake never really froze, but the north end has held good ice since late December. The edges have been deteriorating in recent weeks, but anglers with planks have been able to get on at Moonstone Landing. Small tungsten jigs, spoons and rattle baits tipped with worms or shrimp have been catching trout in the 14-to-20-inch range.  
  • Payette Lake: No safe ice, and never really froze this year.
  • Duck Valley: No safe ice, and never really froze this year.
  • Other fisheries: Conditions are poor at Mann Creek, Blair Trail, Salmon Falls Creek and Ben Ross. Unless you have a super recent, firsthand report, it’s probably not worth the gas money.

Arrowrock/Lucky Peak (Kokanee, Trout)

The silver lining to winter’s demise is the opportunity to get the boat out early. Lucky Peak and Arrowrock Reservoir are ice-free and fishing well for pan-sized trout and early-season Kokanee. The road is messy, especially if you go all the way to Arrowrock, so be prepared to take it slow and get some mud on the tires. Fish are biting on dodgers and pop gear tipped with corn or maggots. Tout are usually found within 15 feet of the surface, while Kokanee have been in 30-to-40 feet—a little deeper than usual for such cold water. Pink, orange and green are usually good colors to try. Be prepared to use concrete-only boat ramps, as the docks are still out of the water. Trout fishing can also be decent from shore using worms, marshmallows and Power Bait.

Boise River (Trout)

The Boise has been fishing well for rainbow and brown trout, giving anglers a convenient open water option. It can be slow going, but if you’re willing to work for your bites, there are some really nice trout to be caught. You might even bump into a bonus steelhead! Drift fishing with bait or nymph patterns is a good way to go. You might also get a big trout to chase a spinner or Rapala. Tight lines!